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old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

01 February 2006

Congratulations! You All Made It To Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 250th Birthday!

Catching pretty birdies, that's my game
and Papageno is my name ...

from "The Magic Flute / der Zauberflote"
Salzburg Marionette Theater /
Das Salzburger Marionettentheater

Austria / Oesterreich

Education to the most excellent standards was The Big Plan in my family when I was a Yard Ape; an enormous amount of my Youthful Life groaned under a very large dark noxious cloud called My Education. (I invented Playing Hooky during high school, and drove the Mustang up to New York City with a pal for a week, we went straight to Greenwich Village; no human had ever Played Hooky or Cut School or Been Truant before I invented it.)

But Education With Mostly Practical, Sensible Purposes. My Rents could easily get suspicious if they caught one of us suddenly getting Much Too Educated in certain Subjects of our own choice, like Art or Music or Homemade Explosives and Invisible Death Rays.

There wasn't much Classical -- High-Brow -- Music playing on the Webcor 33 1/3 vinyl record changer whrrrr ka-THUNK wrrrrr. Mostly Perry Como, a lot of Broadway Musicals, and then when my brother could get the Webcor to himself, Rhythm and Blues, jazz, Ray Charles.

Someone, maybe the Rents, came back from Somewhere with a very thick and heavy (Bakelite, maybe) Blind Blake 78:

You all know Dillinger
Scourge of the Nation
Dillinger drove up to a Fillin Station
The attendant said
Do you want my gas?
Either your gas or your Yes Yes Yes

Twas the Night Before Christmas
And All Through the House
Not a Creature was stirring
Not even a Mouse
'long about Midnight we heard something pass
It was Santa Claus slipping on his Yes Yes Yes

Also one day when I was inspecting my brother's belongings a 3- or 4-disk 33 1/3 boxed set of something that looked Very Confused and Disorderly and Suspicious on the photo of the cover, and with an inexplicable incomprehensible name: die Driegroschenoper. I used to put that on the changer and listen to that for hours. Men and women screaming all sorts of incomprehensible things at each other -- they seemed to be singing, but if I sang like that in Music Class, I would get a D or an F.

The record manufacturer had thoughtfully included a translation of the libretto in English, and this made Less Sense than the deutscheshrieken. Apparently it was the librettist's Vision that a neverending torrent of Bad Things was brutally forced upon almost all human beings everywhere at all times due primarily to Economic Forces, which we are Powerless to control or defend against, unless we organize and overthrow the political and social order, probably with a lot of violence. Mr. Brecht also had Many Interesting and Blunt Ideas about Love, Marriage, Relationships Between The Genders.

Mr. Weill wrote the tunes and harmonies, and his ideas were every bit as Strange and Disturbing as Mr. Brecht's.

That was Highbrow Stuff, I just didn't know it. I didn't know what Highbrow was. What I didn't know then, the Pacific Ocean could not contain.

Also Brecht and Weill were to be played exclusively on the 3rd floor of the house where my brother had his Space, at low volume with the door closed. Brecht and Weill were not to compete or interfere with Perry Como in the living room.

I think I got the D or the C- in Music Class anyway, I paid Negative Attention to the Music Woman's Introduction to the Classic European Symphonies and Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring." So I went off into the world Musically Unwashed in the Euro Classics. I knew not the Lord Jesus, I knew not Bach, I knew barely Beethoven, I wouldn't know Rachmaninov if he tried to proposition me in a pissoir.

This is what I knew about Mozart:

1. Started very young
2. Died pretty young
3. Wrote some famous things
4. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, that's him
5. Spoke German
6. Beethoven and Bach are more High-Class, more Important

There followed a year or two of Aimless Wandering, and a fond membership in The Idle Dandies, Greater Washington DC Chapter, and then Universal Military Conscription during some sort of War or Police Action or Colonial Perpetuation, the whole thing was extremely unpleasant, but Jimi Hendrix and Ms. Grace Slick and her Friends were singing Very Loudly and Ceaselessly, and that made it Largely Worthwhile, also LSD and Marijuana helped a great deal. Liquor -- Officially Recommended by the U.S. Department of Defense -- was also readily available. Some guy offered to take me to a party where they were doing Mescaline Enemas, but I said no thanks.

On 21 March 1971 I received Three Medals and an autographed Thank You Letter from President Richard M. Nixon (it's still here somewhere) and eventually roared back to DC on The World's Fastest Production Motorcycle (manufactured in Englande). After trying (and enjoying) Unemployment for a few months, I eventually tried Employment, at a somewhat unimpressive bookstore in a shopping center (Ur-mall), and then at a Very Impressive High-Tone Upscale Froo-Froo Toni bookstore in Georgetown.

This joint was less bookstore, more like Kult. Some of the staff would throw customers out of the store if their Requests were deemed too ignorant or unsophistcated; in general our motto was: The Customer Is Usually Wrong Compared to Us.

And of course the staff was not simply the World's Authority on All Books. Books was just how we made the rent and bought sausages and Pinot Noir. My co-workers were also Cornucopiae about lithographs and fine Visual Art, European Cinema (I think many of them didn't know Americans made movies too), Cuisine, the Literature of Six or Nine Languages (we had our own French Department, that's where I sent the two little French Madeleine schoolgirls straight to the trap door of the Slavers), Dance, and Music.

My colleagues thought it was Mildly Interesting that I could squawk back a few verses from die Driegroschenoper, but they REALLY knew ALL Music.

I was feeling Musically Guilty and Inadequate.

I was too ashamed to ask for help, so I decided to Educate Myself based on what I dimly remembered.

I just got this idea that Mozart would be Easily and Immediately Accessible, no Funny Stuff, pretty to listen to, and Sufficiently High Class so if I listened to some of it, I'd have Intelligent-Sounding Things to Say about it during lunch in the little courtyard garden eating our one-day-old (reduced price) pate with bagettes and drinking splits of French vino. (Georgetown bookstore picnic, cravat optional.)

And who was this Glenn Gould guy I'd heard about, probably eavesdropping on a bus? Everybody said he was a really good piano player. And from Canada, I liked Canada a lot by then, although I'd never set foot in it. I could probably Trust this Canadian guy to give me some Good Mozart, some of the Finest Piano Mozart currently for sale at Circle Records. A fellow from Canada with a name like Glenn Gould would not Trick Me with bad Mozart.

Circle Records had a whole indexed section of Glenn Gould, and a metric shitload of Mozart. And Lo! there was GG playing the Piano Sonatas. No photo of the guy. No painting of Mozart. Just a dreamy illustration, all blue sky, with a white dove. I guess the 33 cost me $4.99 or maybe if they thought they could squeeze it out of the Desperate Highbrow Wannabees, $7.99 . I was happy at either price, I figured out a way to cradle it on the motorcycle and roar home.

At this time I was bachelor flopping with the Idle Dandies Society again, and several of them had morphed into professional audio engineers, and this shack had a fucking stereo system Beyond Imagining, JBL Studio Monitors, Rectal Exciters, Quad, Woofers, Tweeters, Midranges, Dynamic Equalizers, an itty-bitty Oscilloscope on the Monster Preamp, Vacuum Tube Power Amps (maybe Dynaco/Dynakits) -- Jesus, it was like Baron Frankenstein's Music Room, the big old gray fat alley cat was regularly getting strangled in all the wires and cables, and that Detached House on Reno Road just VIBRATED all day and all night, and Every Kind Of Noise Ever Recorded On Tape Or Phonograph Record just Resounded through that Hall. And if those sources weren't enough, you could plug in the Sennheiser Cardioid Stereo Microphones, or any amplified instruments, and sing it yourself -- there was holes in the backs of those boxes for everything.

Yes, Transistor Equipment had been available since 1959, but these guys were having None Of That Shit, it was Tubes/Valves All The Way on Reno Road.

If enough people beg, I will tell you about the week we lent the living room to the two young lesbian women from Ibiza who had brought back North African Trade Goods to market to Many interested neighborhood consumers. They liked the stereo system a lot. One of them was a very talented folk fiddler.

The album was cherry and had Not A Scratch when I put it on the turntable. (During the War, sophisticated audiophiles had stopped trying to play stacks of six LPs at a time; the Changer now was only used by people who played Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette records and had a dead car or truck in the front yard.) At Reno Road, the needle that touched the surface of the LP was a $40 microamplifying cartridge with a diamond tip.

I'm very tempted to Stop Right Now, because in a moment I will find myself Writing About Beautiful Music, and what is the point? It should be Against The Law to try to use Words to describe Music -- particularly when you could probably find the exact same piece of music within 24 hours and listen to it yourself.

But I will not Stop.

Because just a couple of days ago, it was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 250th Birthday.

Because we have all managed to make it fairly safely to 2006, and 2006 is and will be the 250th Jubilee Celebration Fete Fiesta Jamboree Festivola Hootenany Shindig Shiveree of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, all over the Planet Earth and Twice On Vleeptron.

If you Hate Mozart, you will have to spend a lot of 2006 stuffing cotton in your ears and hiding in the woods or the desert or the Amazon Rain Forest or the Arctic -- and even there you will regularly be awakened by Mozart Stuff, played Loud, and Nearby, and Again and Again.

Encore! Encore! For a Whole Year, the Planet Earth will be Plagued with Constant Chronic Swarms of Live, Canned and Broadcast and Narrowcast and Webcast Mozart Music.

What a lovely Plague. Most Plagues leave you with Pustules and Gasping and Wheezing and Vomiting and Pooping and Dying. At least a lot of Swatting and Bothering and Annoyance.

But for a year, you will be constantly assaulted from all directions by Mozart Music!

Most of you will Survive. Fear Not.

Do you think maybe This Coincidental Year of Wolfgang A. Mozart might have the Magickal Power to Soothe the Savage Breast?

Do you think this 365 Days Of Mozart might suddenly Calm The Violence and Hatred and Revenge and Children-Killing and Planet-Poisoning Pathology which has recently gripped Earth and its Human Beings?


If anybody can do it, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart can. And he doesn't have to come back from the dead to do it. A HUGE part of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart just never Died in the first place.

Oh yeah, they carried him out of his house in the winter and buried him in a pauper's unmarked hole, and he never got up again.

But the music never stopped. Not for a year, not for a week.

Vleeptron approves.

Okay Vleeptron got to eat some Dinner now.

Later soon, Vleeptron will talk more about The Wonderful Year of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and all the Good Things it will soon inevitably do to the Human Spirit, to the World Soul, on this sick dangerous scary angry Rock.

A special gift from a special Heaven will bathe our weary World in special Beauty all year long. Congratulations to all of us for reaching this very wonderful moment.


Blogger Abbas Halai said...

you're right about beethoven and bach being more important. mozart did about 625 pieces of work in his short life. that's a lot of works for one man, which means he was churning them out one after another. you really can't listen to more than 4 or 5 of his works without getting intellectually numbed by them, as opposed to wagner or strauss or bach. it's like fast food and going to mcdonalds, you'll enjoy the first big mac and maybe another one for dinner, but the next day you try eating another big mac, you'll be sick to your stomach. mozart's music was extremely formulaic and hence not too interesting, as opposed to any other composer who you can keep playing background or foreground all day long and not get tired of it.

Anonymous patfromch said...

Are you sure you spelled Dreigroschenoper correctly ? Because this is the correct way to spell it.
(And if this was a typo then hell will freeze over. Never seen one here)

I have similar experiences with Mozart. As a young lad I ignored classical music completely and listened to Punkrock instead. Then Gould came into my life and thigns changed.
One of the first things I heard was GG's 1958 performance of KV 330. Wow, that was something. Beautiful Music. Then I wanted to A/B with the recording from 1970....You can guess the rest.
It takes balls to perform Mozart like this but at liest for me it works.

Oh, and just WAIT till the sleepy folks at f_minor have noticed that it is a Mozart Year...

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Well, okay, first of all, Ja, I spelled it wrong. You know I can't spell anything im deutsches. I can barely buy Wurst im deutsches. The Agence-Vleeptron Presse Fact-Checking and Foreign Spelling Staff was on holiday, and my wife was calling me to eat dinner, so I didn't check everything I should have.

Of Vleeptron's very first Classical Music Critical Controversy, I shall soon have more to say about Mozart, whom I love obsessively, far more than Herren Beethoven und Johann Sebastian Bach.

But in the words of the 20th Century philosopher and musicologist Sly Stone:

Different strokes
For different folks
And so on
and so on and scooby dooby doo-bee

On a previous topic -- wow wow again thanks for the snapshot of Pakistan! Who got married? And how was the food?

Anonymous patfromch said...

I just had another Mozart Moment.
In the movie Shawshank Redemption Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) gets the job as Librarianin. For some reason I forgot he gets pissed off about soething, locks himself in the library and sarts to play "Sull' Aria" from "Le Nozze di Figaro" in full blast over the loudspeakers and all the inmates stop and listen. A very moving moment in movie history (and one of the few pieces of opera music I REALLY like)


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